The confrontation between Tamimi and the illiberal Israeli state is only one example of a system of violent persecution met by a relentless struggle, writes John Clarke
Despite the intense international media attention focused on the arrest, legal persecution and imprisonment of Ahed Tamimi, the release of her and her mother, Nariman, was replete with the rituals of humiliation that the forces of Israeli occupation impose on Palestinians. The pretence of liberal democracy being less important to the apartheid regime than playing to its racist base and asserting its physical control over those it oppresses.
Ahed and her mother had been set for release on Saturday, July 28 but it was postponed until the Sunday and involved hours of ‘cat and mouse’ games in which family and friends were forced to move between different military checkpoints before the prisoners were eventually handed over. This was a parting shot from the occupation forces in a drawn out act of vengeance against a family that dared to act with courage and dignity in the face of its brutality and intimidation.
Shortly after a video emerged of Ahed slapping an Israeli soldier, she was arrested. The fact that the military was raiding her home, and that she was outraged by their having wounded her cousin, counted for nothing. She was forced to accept a plea bargain and an eight month prison term. Her mother received the same sentence for the ‘crime’ of sharing the video. The fundamental injustice of such treatment has been measured against the pathetic leniency shown to members of the occupation forces who have carried out egregious acts of violence against Palestinians. IDF soldier, Elor Azaria, received a comparable punishment for the extrajudicial killing of the wounded Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.
Ahed Tamimi has, herself, acknowledged that she is but one of many who have faced imprisonment at the hands of the occupiers. Palestinians, including children, are routinely put behind bars for very minor acts of resistance. They are subject to beatings and vicious interrogations and the ‘justice’ they receive when dragged before the sham courts of the ‘Middle East’s only democracy’ might be described as laughable were it not equally an important public component of the repression.
Nonetheless, the attention that has focused on Ahed has been enormous. There’s no denying the media’s desire to elevate the individual above the movement. Doubtless, there has been a rather patronising element to the particular attention shown to her, based on her age and gender. Most disturbingly, the fact that Ahed has light hair and skin has played a role in generating sympathy for her in the West. Her mother has been only one of her community to point this out. Despite this, without disregarding the limitations and contradictions involved, Ahed Tamimi is a young woman of extraordinary strength and courage who expresses the spirit of Palestinian resistance in a way that has generated fear and loathing in the Zionist state, and respect across the world.
The village Ahed lives in, Nabi Saleh, is watched over by a surveillance aerostat in the Israeli settlement of Halamish. The residents live under the boot of the occupiers and their resistance is unending. For years, they held regular marches towards Halamish to demand access to a water spring annexed for the use of the settlers. Arrests, beatings, tear gas and live ammunition have been used against them. Ahed’s father has given interviews in which he talks of her exceptional and astounding readiness to defy the occupation forces. At fifteen, she confronted an army commander and in response to his shamefaced claim that he did not wish to harm children, led her family through the military checkpoint with the soldiers too stunned to block their passage.
Clearly, as unbreakable as the Palestinian will to resist has been over many decades, these are harsh times. The Israeli regime moves ever further to right. The pretence of a ‘peace process’ has been all but dispensed with. This, moreover, is taking place when the US, the leading force in sustaining Israel as the West’s garrison state in the Middle East, is in the political control of an Administration dominated by the most ruthless and reckless elements. The leading forces within the Zionist state, have grown tired of bothering to pretend they are running a liberal democracy. Mass murder at the Gaza fence, the triumphalist relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the open declaration of apartheid with the Nation State Law, all point to the determined drive to complete the colonial project on the stolen land of Palestine.
Much effort has been expended to weaken, disorientate and corrupt Palestinian leadership and it would be hard to deny it has it produced results. Palestinians, whether they live as third class citizens of Israel, under military occupation or in exile, struggle to find the political way forward. The movement of international solidarity gains ground but faces determined efforts to discredit it with lies. The starting point in everything is the understanding that resistance won’t end and that Palestine will be free. The defiance, the courage and the dignity of Ahed Tamimi speaks to this loudly. She is part of something much bigger but her individual role is precious.
John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.
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